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Projection and Transference

Projection and Transference

Ernst Becker, in The Denial of Death, observes we have a universal human need for heroic figures who are less helpless or broken than ourselves. We transfer our childlike feelings of dependency to celebrities, mega-church pastors, or other authority figures. (Freud called this transference). They appear to have triumphed over the hardships of life. They dazzle us with their self-confidence. We compare ourselves to them, feeling diminished in their presence. If we happen to get close to them and see their ugly side, we feel shocked and betrayed.

We forget. They too feel frightened, inadequate, and vulnerable like the rest of us. Read the biographies of all spiritual, military, economic, intellectual, political, and artistic leaders through history. You will discover they each had their shadows and monsters.

People will, at times, put you on a pedestal, idealizing you and projecting onto you qualities as if you were indistinguishable from the rest of humanity. But remember: they will probably despise you when they see all of you.

We are all broken, human beings. As Becker says, we are all just a “homo sapien, standard vintage.”

The Desert Fathers, from the fourth century, offer us the antidote to these twin dangers of projection and transference:
The brothers surrounded John the Short when he was sitting in front of the church, and each of them asked him about their thoughts. When he saw this, another hermit was jealous, and said, ‘John, your cup is full of poison.’  John answered, ‘Yes, abba, it is. But you said that when you could only see the outside; I wonder what you say if you saw the inside.”

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Sifting, Suicides, and Pastors

Sifting, Suicides, and Pastors

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 (NASB)

Sifting comes to every pastor and leader. There are no exceptions.

Sifting is happening when everything in us wants out. Jesus was sifted multiple times – e.g. in Gethsemane, in the wilderness, in the crucifixion. “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death,” he said (Matt. 26:38).

The steady stream of pastors and leaders leaving the ministry due to sexual or financial scandal has not changed in decades. What is even more alarming, however, is the recent rash of pastors committing suicide.

Jesus’ comments to Peter teach us that:

  1. Satan targets lead pastors with a particular rage and fury.
  2. Jesus allows extreme testing to put things to death in us that can we cannot kill in ourselves and so that we effectively lead others.
  3. Jesus’ intercession for us (Rom. 8:34) is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. He is the only way we can recover from falls and remain faithful.

Our breastplates are exposed. We spend our time growing institutions and not dealing with our own souls. It may be very difficult to lead a church, but it is easy next to the hard work of dealing with our sexuality, our marriages, our emotional lives, and the “stuff” buried under our frenetic activity.

Our conferences, along with our training of future leaders, focus almost exclusively on our exterior worlds. They equip us to do leadership better. That is a good thing. The problem is the imbalance with an equal focus on our interior lives.

God may finally be getting our attention that something is desperately wrong.

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10 Turning Point Lessons from New Life

10 Turning Point Lessons from New Life

  1. Character is more important than gifting. Being is more important than doing.
  2. Do not rush. When decisions were made quickly, without pausing to pray, think, and process implications, we have had regrets.
  3. Each leader need to take responsibility and initiative for their own growth and development.
  4. Clarity of vision results in a unified leadership, and unified leadership reinforces the vision.
  5. Extended Sabbatical rest releases new, life-giving initiatives from God and enables us to serve out of a cup that overflows.
  6. Face the truth and act on it, even if it hurts.
  7. Enforce our values. When we have compromised on this, due to expediency, it has been costly, damaging our integrity as well as our long-term mission and effectiveness.
  8. Be faithful to our “charism,” the grace from God that is uniquely ours. Learn from other streams and ministries, but be content in our particular gift and DNA from God.
  9. Intentional mentoring and development of individuals is key to bearing fruit long term. To skip this has never worked.
  10. Take the time to do theological reflection and to capture insights, especially from mistakes and failures. Codify these learnings into new tools to train leaders and deepen your ability to spiritually form your people.

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